Unlike many regular pillows, a contour pillow is made with memory foam. Memory foam is built to allow the pressure from the weight of the head to shape it. Regular pillows lose their shape over time from use while a pillow made with memory foam will retain its shape longer. The contour of the pillow supports the head and neck in a healthy way without overextending the spine. Some back and neck pain may be the result of improper alignment during sleep, and these issues could be resolved or this particular cause could be ruled out with the proper pillow. The benefits of contour pillows are evident above, below, and along the spine. A contour memory foam pillow is going to be a little heavier than the average pillow and might be more expensive, but the right price for a pillow that is likely to last longer and act as a better support should be worth the cost. Pillows are meant to be long-lasting tools for sleep aid and comfort.1 It is claimed that these orthopedic pillows can relieve conditions such as sleep apnea, snoring, insomnia, blood circulation problems, acid reflux, sciatic pain, and whiplash. The different pillows are meant to be used on specific areas of the body to relieve physical ailments in those areas. The effectiveness of the therapeutic pillows may vary from person-to-person and how each type of pillow is used.2
Different Styles of Contour Pillows
There is a range of styles to choose from when it comes to contour pillows. The cervical pillow is meant for the head and neck to rest on. Both back sleepers and side sleepers can use the contour neck pillow. The benefits of this style are neck pain relief, release of breathing airways, and relaxation of frozen shoulder. The contour leg pillow can be used in tandem with a contour neck pillow, with the leg pillow providing elevation of the lower body to maintain a straight side sleeping position. These pillows support back and side sleeping while stomach sleeping is discouraged due to the harm that it causes to the neck. From an anatomical standpoint, side sleeping is the ideal position as long as the limbs on side of the body that is providing the support are positioned properly. Back sleeping is the next best position, though it is recommended that contour pillows are used to promote healthy curvature in the body during sleep.3 When it comes to pillow filling, there are arguments to the advantages of having a pillow filled with buckwheat husks rather than memory foam. Memory foam pillows have a predefined shape that is meant to provide the ideal support. Buckwheat pillows also have a general shape, though they do also allow for a little more natural reshaping during the movement of the body throughout the night. Memory foam pillows come in a set thickness that cannot typically be manually adjusted and should be customized to body size while the husks inside buckwheat pillows could be removed or added. The hollow space created by the buckwheat hulls allowing for more air circulation and breathability to maintain a comfortable temperature in the pillow. Because the pillows are largely organic, they are biodegradable and create no waste once they have outlived their use. The main disadvantage to buckwheat hulls inside the pillow is the possibility of the user being allergic to the organic material, though a buckwheat allergy is not too common. Additionally, the buckwheat crop is generally grown with little contamination from chemical fertilizers and complies with the vegan lifestyle because they contain no animal products. The choice of material within the pillow is mainly up to preference.4
Other Treatments for Back and Neck Pain
In addition to using the right pillow, chiropractic care may help reduce back and neck pain. Spinal manipulation is performed through quick arm thrusts along the back to realign and restore motion and reduce pain caused by misalignment. Adjustments can also be performed on the neck. The patient may need to attend a few sessions before relief becomes consistent, though the first adjustment usually makes some difference. The chiropractor is also likely give the patient ways to maintain proper posture at home, from adjustments in sitting and sleeping to diet and exercise.5 There are other ways to promote sleep hygiene. Consuming caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, nicotine, or exercising within six hours of bedtime does not allow the body enough time to calm down properly. Alternatively, engaging in vigorous exercise earlier in the day, performing light stretches a few minutes prior to bedtime, and drinking a warm, non-caffeinated beverage an hour before going to sleep are a few ways to aid in a more restful night. It is also important to try to maintain a regular sleep schedule so that the body will learn to wake up and calm down at the right times each day.6
Learn more about chiropractic, posture, and ergonomics.